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How the Genetic Diversity is Produced in Mountains of Sri Lanka and its Implications for the Management of Montane Biodiversity

NRC Grant:  14-072

14 072a

Dr. B.S.S. Seneviratne
Dept. of Zoology
Faculty of Science
University of Colombo
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Area of Research:Ecology & Environment
Status:Ongoing

 

objectives

 a) To measure the amount of gene flow along the elevational gradient in Sri Lanka using the Zosterops sister pair in the central hills of Sri Lanka

b) To evaluate how the elevation acting as a barrier for dispersal in the range-restricted and endemic Z. ceylonensis in the foothills

c) To study how montane endemic birds of Sri Lanka related to the mainland congeners, especially the ones in mountains of West Ghats

d) To identify narrow regions (probably in the foothills) with sharp genetic breaks through mapping the genomic information onto topographic maps. These heather-to unknown regions of high biodiversity value could be a useful tool both for biodiversity management and for sustainable development

e) To train and supervise a postgraduate (PhD) student on evolutionary ecology and island biogeography in Sri Lanka. The student will collaborate with a wide range of local and international academics to carry out this study

f) To establish a collaborative research program on evolution and biogeography between Sri Lanka and India

overview

National Development: The management of healthy gene pools is one of the main objectives of the Ministry of Environment, the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Department of Forestry. The proposed study will determine the areas of highest genetic diversity within Sri Lanka, and elucidate some of the underlying mechanisms for this high diversity. Such knowledge is critical to develop evidence-based management tools and land-use policy for biodiversity management and sustainable development.

Economic Development: Tourism has become one of the largest foreign exchange generators. The impact of tourism on our GDP is ~5% and it provides ~150,000 employment opportunities. High biodiversity is a key factor that facilitates the Eco-tourism. Therefore studies that improve the knowledge of birds and have the potential to add more species to the national bird list will have a direct positive impact on economic development through tourism.

Improving well-being: Development of new species (speciation) is of great interest in the context of newly evolving pathogens (e.g. viruses and bacteria). The knowledge on speciation in Sri Lanka could be an important tool to manage future biological threats to our well-being.

Science Capacity Building: One PhD degree and at least three publications in international journals are envisaged from this study that would bring credit to our higher education system. The student will be working collaboratively with research institutions in India, which will help expand regional collaboration and student exchange programmes. This study will contribute towards the development of new courses (e.g. Molecular Ecology) at the University of Colombo.